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Wheatley grilled in Parliament about Petrojam scandal

Dr. Andrew Wheatley, Peter Bunting and Dr. Peter Phillips
 
Dr. Andrew Wheatley spent his last day as energy minister being grilled by opposition members of Parliament about the scandal at state-owned oil refinery Petrojam, which cost him the portfolio.
 
The Office of the Prime Minister on Monday announced that Dr. Wheatley would be relieved of responsibility for the energy ministry on Wednesday, but Dr. Wheatley still had outstanding questions to answer in the House Tuesday.
 
The questions had been tabled by Peter Bunting, Member of Parliament for Manchester Central. 
 
During Tuesday's sitting, Dr. Wheatley was bombarded with questions about the compensation packages for the Human Resources Manager, donations made by Petrojam in 2017, funds advanced to the Chairman of Petrojam for a trip to London, and a retainer paid by Petrojam to an entertainment company.
 
Mr. Bunting also had follow-up questions on what he said was the toxic work environment which has contributed to employees leaving in droves, and the dismissal of the former HR manager. 
 
In response to the question about the former HR manager's dismissal and the subsequent hiring of a replacement, Dr. Wheatley defended the decision, noting that prior to the arrival of the current HR manager in 2016, the level of engagement between staff and management was 40 per cent, but this has since risen to 65 per cent. 
 
Dr. Wheatley also responded to questions about the progress in relation to the Vaccuum Distillation Unit (VDU). 
 
He said negotiations with the Chinese company interested in undertaking the project are at a standstill and no agreement has been signed.
 
The minister expressed disappointment with Opposition members for their "careless and unsubstantiated utterances in the public domain, which may have placed the delicate negotiations...and the future of the country's energy security at risk, all in the name of political one-upmanship."
 
In the meantime, fearing a repeat of last week's boisterous sitting, the government side attempted to stave off another stand-off with the opposition in the House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon.
 
At the start of the sitting, Karl Samuda, Leader of Government Business in the House, said he had been informed that opposition members were planning to disrupt the sitting.
 
Opposition Leader Dr. Peter Phillips made a strong denial, pointing out that the Standing Orders prohibit members from imputing motives to other members or making unsubstantiated allegation. 
 
House Speaker Pearnel Charles intervened, telling Mr. Samuda he could not make such allegations without evidence.


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